Robust earnings keep European shares near 5-year highs

Reuters

* FTSEurofirst 300 closes flat at 1,287.57 points

* FTSEurofirst 300 had earlier hit fresh 5-year high

* DAX slips 0.1 percent, having earlier hit new record high

* Volkswagen and Orkla rise after earnings and sales figures

By Sudip Kar-Gupta

LONDON, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Pan-European equities settlednear 5-year highs on Wednesday, supported by robust tradingupdates from carmaker Volkswagen and Norwegianconglomerate Orkla, among others.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index initiallyrose 0.6 percent to hit a fresh 5-year high of 1,296.37 points,before edging back to close flat at 1,287.57 points, with theindex up by some 3 percent since the start of October.

The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index slipped 0.3 percent to 3,040.69 points while Germany's DAX fell 0.1 percent to 9,010.27 points, having earlier hita fresh record high of 9,070.17 points.

Some traders said that on a short-term view, the equitymarket may slip back some 1 percent by the end of this week astraders look to cash in on October's rally.

But others focused on a longer-term bullish view on equitymarkets, forecasting a rally into the end of 2013.

Volkswagen and Orkla were among the top risers on theFTSEurofirst 300 index after reporting figures that were eitherin line with or better than market expectations.

Volkswagen rose 5.6 percent after unveiling record sales atpremium brands Audi and Porsche that confounded many investorswho had bet on a weak quarterly report.

Rupert Baker, a European equity sales executive at MirabaudSecurities, said European companies were having to cope with theimpact of a fall in the U.S dollar against the euro,which could hit exports, but added that generally speaking theirunderlying third quarter results looked solid.

According to Thomson Reuters StarMine data, 53 percent ofcompanies on the pan-European STOXX 600 index haveposted third-quarter results that have either met or beatenmarket forecasts.

"There is a currency headwind but the underlying earningslook robust enough," Baker said.

TIME TO CASH IN?

With markets such as the DAX at record highs, some said nowwas a good time to trim back equity positions to cash in. TheFTSEurofirst 300 is up 14 percent since the start of 2013 whilethe DAX has risen 19 percent.

Richard Edwards, who runs trading and research firm HEDCapital, backed selling into rallies on the Spanish, Italian andFrench stock markets.

Darren Courtney-Cook, head of trading at Central MarketsInvestment Management, added there could be a 1 percent pullbackon the DAX before the end of the week as traders look to cash inon some equity holdings before the end of October.

"The month-end is coming. That could be the catalyst for abit of profit-taking," said Courtney-Cook, who sold the DAXfutures contract at 9,063 points on Wednesday.

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